How to spot a Defensive Lactation Professional


Lactation professionals are easily triggered by any positive discussion of formula feeding.

What does that mean?

To be triggered is to experience a strong reaction of shock, anger or fear in response something another person said or wrote. For example, many lactation professionals seem to have experienced tremendous shock, anger and fear in response to Nathaniel Popper’s NYTimes piece extolling the unanticipated joy of formula feeding his baby.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Defensive Lactation Professionals welcome the process of getting offended and are attracted to media which triggers them.[/pullquote]

Their overwrought response — accusing the father of controlling his wife, claiming that the piece was created by a formula company algorithm, blaming the patriarchy for his wife’s difficult with breastfeeding — illustrate their extreme defensiveness.

But that’s hardly the only indication of a ‘Defensive Lactation Professional’ (DLP for short).

Victim Mentality

If there is one thing Defensive Lactation Professionals are sure of it’s that they are victims.

They are victims of evil multi-national formula companies who (they imagine) quake at the thought of women actually breastfeeding their babies.

They are victims of a culture that — despite spending millions of dollars to promote breastfeeding and engaging in massive public health campaigns to support breastfeeding — is secretly hostile to breastfeeding.

They are victims of pediatricians and nurses who care more about whether a baby lives or dies than whether it is breastfed.

Therefore, Defensive Lactation Professionals see any positive discussion of formula as an opportunity to recite their ever-lengthening list of ever more arcane “benefits” of breastfeeding. How many times have you seen a perfectly reasonable discussion of formula feeding sabotaged by a DLP with the immortal words, “You could have breastfed if you’d had more support!”?

Facebook and Twitter are dangerous places for Defensive Lactation Professionals. They are always alert for the worst, as it is full of evil women who desire nothing more than to eradicate breastfeeding. In their view, it is a harsh environment of victims (themselves), victimizers (everyone else), and occasional rescuers (other DLPs who send them hugs).

But social media is also a place where like attracts like, so it only makes sense that DLPs attract people like them, united in their shared contempt for formula feeders. When you’re in a social situation and everyone is expressing relief at how much better their babies are growing, how much easier it is to formula feed, and how they can share the burden with partners and family members, it’s so comforting to band together with other DLPs to accuse formula feeders of laziness, selfishness and not caring enough to give their babies the very “best.”


The arrogance of DLPs is often a very subtle and indirect way of expressing cruelty without openly acknowledging it.

Consider this exchange with Doula Maddie on Twitter.

A physician and cancer survivor responded to Maddie’s insistence that everyone can breastfeed, writing:

Hi.I had a double mastectomy for breast cancer age 28. I’m fascinated to hear that ALL women can breastfeed. I would really value your insight into how I could have achieved better for my 3 bottlefed children given my total absence of mammary tissue?

And Maddie, in a response that should win an Oscar for “Cruelty in a Supporting Role” immediately responded with this:


IF you want to …

It’s accompanied by a picture of a baby nursing from a women’s breast with the feeding tube of a supplemental nursing system taped along side the nipple.

Which part of ‘double mastectomy’ did Maddie fail to understand? The doctor has NO breast tissue and NO nipples. What exactly would that SNS be taped to?

Passive Aggressiveness

Defensive Lactation Professionals seem superficially to acknowledging the reality of insufficient breastmilk, breastfeeding pain and demanding jobs incompatible with pumping, but are experts in passive aggressive “suggestions.” For example, they may ask if you have hired a lactation consultant, pumped after every feeding and taken medication to boost supply, but they don’t care about the answer. Regardless of your personal circumstances, and regardless of the fact that you’ve already tried all their suggestions, they are “sure” that you could have breastfed if you’d only tried harder.

In the online environment, within minutes their behaviour will escalate. They will ascribe non-existent negative intentions to neutral statements, sulk, pout, withdraw, bungle, make excuses, and lie. Their talent at sending mixed messages catches others off-guard. One minute they’re having a civil conversation, then they’re offended, then they claim to enjoy the debate, then they are angry. Their behaviour appears very schizophrenic as they battle with their inner demons on the public stage of the internet forum or Facebook page.

A common theatrical performance of a DLP is to post in a discussion of the merits of formula feeding:

“I’m leaving this terrible page; you are all shills for formula companies!”

… and then staying. That’s unfortunate; actually leaving would have produced a sigh of relief from everyone else.

Attention Seeking

This behaviour has a self-defeating, almost masochistic quality. It is as if Defensive Lactation Professionals welcome the process of getting offended and are attracted to media which triggers them. They actively seek out formula support forums, blogs and advocates where they enjoy arguing. They tell themselves they are “informing” others.

To compound the negativity of this outlook, Defensive Lactation Professionals are experts in inflaming others. They have a knack for dragging others into the emotional maelstrom they create, keeping them off-balance with their talent for moving the goalposts. “You could have breastfed!” “But antibodies!” “Why not donor milk?”

They are also masters of manipulation, which can make interactions with them infuriating. It is almost as if they want to offend people, only to prove to themselves that they are being persecuted. Their talent for high drama draws other Defensive Lactation Professionals to them like moths to a flame. They gain short-term pleasure from feeling sorry for themselves or eliciting pity from each other.

But when formula feeders respond with real life experiences or with scientific evidence that undermines their claims, Defensive Lactation Professionals respond by …

Deleting, Blocking and Banning

This behavior is the truest indication of their defensiveness. Rather than gracefully acknowledging that breast is NOT best for every baby and every mother, they delete testimony from women whose babies were hospitalized, suffered brain injuries or even died as a result of insufficient breastmilk.

Rather than addressing the large and growing body of evidence that most of the purported benefits of breastfeeding disappear when corrected for maternal education and socio-economic class, they block other professionals who present that data.

When faced with the papers detailing how the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative ignores the scientific evidence on pacifiers, formula supplementation and the fact the exclusive breastfeeding is the single greatest risk factor for newborn hospital readmission, Defensive Lactation Professionals delete the “offending” evidence and ban the commentor from their Facebook page.

This is particularly insupportable in a group of people who claim to be professionals. No real professional blocks another professional from asking them to address the scientific evidence. No real academic shies away from public disagreement, refusing to venture into scientific conferences where they can be challenged, preferring to huddle within their social media echo chambers rebuffing attempts at engagement.

You could create a bingo card with these DLP traits: victim mentality; arrogance; passive aggressiveness; attention seeking; deleting, blocking and banning. Next time you encounter a Defensive Lactation Professional, have a mental image of this bingo card and see how many traits you can spot.

Popcorn optional.


Some may have already recognized that this is a riff on an old piece from the Alpha Parent.